Just how Minnesotan are Minnesota’s Olympians?

By Molly Bloom

MPR News

Opening ceremonies for the the 2012 Summer Olympics take place today in London, and here at MPR News we’re going to be closely following the Minnesotans competing in the Olympics — and that means anyone with a connection (even a slight one) to the Gopher State.

So if you want to root for your hometown athletes (or hometown-ish as the case may be) here’s a handy list. We’re playfully rating them on a four-point scale of Minnesotan-ness, giving one point for each of the following criteria:

-Born in Minnesota

-Grew up in Minnesota

-Attended college in Minnesota

-Currently lives in Minnesota

moore.jpgMinnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (23), who’s competing for Team USA in London, goes up for a basket around Tulsa’s Chante Black (11) Thursday, July 12, 2012 at the Target Center. (MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

Minnesota’s Olympians

Seimone Augustus — Women’s Basketball (1 out of 4 MN points)

Augustus was drafted by the Minnesota Lynx in 2006. She won a gold medal during her first Olympic appearance in 2008.

Lindsey Berg — Women’s Indoor Volleyball (1 out of 4 MN points)

Berg came to Minnesota in 1998 to play volleyball at the University of Minnesota. After graduating in 2001, she stayed in the state and played with the professional volleyball team, Minnesota Chill, before the league suspended operations. She’s captain of the U.S. women’s team this year and also competed in 2004 and won a silver medal in 2008. The women’s volleyball team is being coached by Hugh McCutcheon who led the men’s team to gold in 2008 and will soon be the head coach of the Gophers women’s volleyball team.

Ali Bernard — Women’s Wrestling (3 out of 4 MN points)

Bernard was born, raised and currently lives in New Ulm. She competed in the Olympics in 2008 and placed fifth. It looked like Bernard wasn’t going to be competing at the Olympics this year after losing to Stefany Lee at the Olympic trials. But when Lee failed a June drug test, she was suspended and Bernard got her spot on the team.

Chas Betts — Men’s Wrestling (2 out of 4 MN points)

Betts was born in Minneapolis and raised in St. Michael, Minn. He was the 2004 Minnesota State Champion wrestler. According to NBC, his wife currently lives in Minnesota while he lives at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. This will be his first appearance at the Olympics.

Rachel Bootsma — Women’s Swimming, 100M Backstroke (3 out of 4 MN points)

Bootsma was born in Robbinsdale and just graduated from Eden Prairie High School this spring. She will be attending Cal in the fall after competing in her first Olympic games.

Kelci Bryant — Women’s Diving, Individual & Synchronized (2 out of 4 MN points)

Bryant is currently a student at the University of Minnesota and is a two-time NCAA champion. She competed at the 2008 Olympics and came in fourth in synchronized diving.

Kara Goucher — Women’s Marathon (1 out of 4 MN points)

Goucher was born in New York, went to college in Colorado and currently lives in Portland, Ore. with her husband and son. But she grew up in Duluth and still considers Duluth her hometown. She competed in 2008 and finished 9th in 5000m and 10th in 10,000m.

Sam Hazewinkel — Men’s Wrestling (1 out of 4 MN points)

Hazewinkel was born in Minnesota, but grew up in Pensacola, Fla. This is his first appearance in the Olympics, and is following in the footsteps of his father and uncle who both competed at the Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Megan Kalmoe — Rowing, Women’s Quadruple Sculls (2 out of 4 MN points)

Kalmoe is a South St. Paul native but graduated from high school in St. Croix Falls, Wisc., went to college in Washington and now lives in New Jersey. She finished fifth in the Beijing Olympics rowing Women’s Double Sculls.

Kevin Love — Men’s Basketball (1 out of 4 MN points)

Love has been a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves since 2008 and has played his entire NBA career with the team. Love just had the best season of his career, averaging 26 points per game, but he hasn’t gotten much playing time in the Team USA exhibition games.

Maya Moore — Women’s Basketball (1 out of 4 MN points)

Moore was the first overall draft pick of the Minnesota Lynx last year and helped lead them to the WNBA championship. She was also named rookie of the year. Moore has already been a leading scorer in the U.S. team’s exhibition games.

Alise Post — Cycling, Women’s BMX (2 out of 4 MN points)

Post was born and raised in St. Cloud but now lives and trains in California. The 21 year-old turned pro at age 15 and was the first woman to be named Rookie of the Year by BMX’er Magazine. She was badly injured in 2011, but recovered enough to regain her national championship title in 2012.

Susie Scanlan — Fencing (3 out of 4 MN points)

Scanlan, a St. Paul native, is currently on leave from Princeton University to train back home with Ro Sobalvarro of the Twin Cities Fencing Club. The Central High School grad is making her Olympic debut this year.

Amanda Smock — Track & Field, Women’s Triple Jump (3 out of 4 MN points)

Smock will be debuting at the Olympics as the only American woman to qualify for the triple jump this year. She was born and raised in Melrose and currently lives in Minneapolis with her husband.

Barbora Spotakova — Track & Field, Javelin (1 out of 4 MN points)

Spotakova attended the University of Minnesota and was named as an All-American as a student there. However, she will be competing with the Czech Republic team in London.

Jillian Tyler — Women’s Swimming, 100m Breastroke (2 out of 4 MN points)

Though Tyler is living and training in Minnesota and is a former Golden Gopher, she will be competing for Team Canada in London.

Brittany Viola — Diving (1 out of 4 MN points)

Viola was born in St. Paul but grew up in Florida. Her most notable Minnesota connection is her father Frank Viola, who helped lead the Minnesota Twins to a 1987 World Series title. This will be her first year competing at the Olympics, though she was an alternate in 2004 and 2008.

Lindsay Whalen — Women’s Basketball (4 out of 4 MN points)

Whalen was born and raised in Hutchinson and was a star on the Gophers basketball team, which she led to its first Final Four appearance in 2004. Whalen played six seasons with the Connecticut Sun before being traded to the Minnesota Lynx in 2010.

  • Kim E

    This was very helpful and informative! It seems like we have a lot to be proud of in MN. I’ll be watching for these names for sure!

  • BJ

    Nice list and scoring system!!

    Very Bob like. Good job Jon.

  • John P.

    We like to claim people no matter how tenuous the connection. We claimed the Iran hikers, we claim Bob Dylan, even though he moved away ASAP and claimed to be from Texas.

    It’s all kind of silly, I think. Are we trying to bask in the reflected glory, or what?

  • KTFoley

    BJ, Molly Bloom gets credit for writing this article (per the byline) and Jon gets credit for posting it to the site.

  • Kassie

    I’d say claiming Bob Dylan as Minnesotan is a pretty solid claim. He was born here and lived here until he was at least 18. Dylan still owns property in Minnesota and brought his kids here every summer while they were growing up. He has said, “I feel Minnesota more than I feel New York or L.A. My work reflects thoughts I had as a little kid that have become superdeveloped. … That’s where I feel rooted, you know. I feel more familiar with the landscape, the people and the earth, I think. I feel more at home there.””

  • K.Eggers

    By your estimation, how long does one have to live here to earn more than one in four “Minnesota points”, if one came here after college? I don’t want to politicize a a fun, lighthearted piece, but as somebody who is trying hard to make MN a home it leaves a bit of a bad aftertaste.

  • KTFoley

    K.Eggers, Molly’s data is clearly described: one point for each of the criteria.

    The context is also pretty clear: evaluating Minnesota’s claim on celebrities, not validating residents’ claim on Minnesota.

    As a post-college transplant of more than two decades past, I am not about to minimize what it takes to feel at home. However, we compare apples and oranges at our own risk.

  • K.Eggers

    Good point KTFoley – thanks for setting the record straight. But The fact remains that one can live here for more than 20 years and not make more than one point on this scale, regardless of what it represents. But again, I never meant to take the playfulness out of the article, so I’ll stop the petty nitpicking.

  • Jim Shapiro

    How about a bit of weighting?

    “Grew up in” and “Currently lives in” certainly have more identification value than “born in” or “attended college in”.

    OK, athleticism would be highlighted in college.


  • Bill

    Attended college in Minnesota, past tense. Bootsma has not even been to college yet. Give her three out of three.

  • Sonja

    Regarding Brittany Viola, you state, “Her most notable Minnesota connection is her father Frank Viola”. True in terms of fame, but Frank is not her most Minnesotan parent. Her mother Kathy is from Roseville, MN and graduated from Hamline U in St. Paul. Her parents met at the Metrodome.

  • Kevin

    Wife living in Minnesota while training in Colorado should be worth at least half a point. I’m going to assume he loves his wife enough to come back after he’s done training.

  • kennedy

    With 15 of the 18 athletes being female, it seems Title 9 is working well for Minnesota.

    “Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking…”